Parties fire their opening shots
Published 04/02/2016 | 02:30
Fine Gael: Taoiseach Enda Kenny said every worker will benefit from tax cuts despite plans to reduce the entry point for PRSI to just €13,000.
Asked why low-paid workers will be hit with the charge after the USC is axed, Mr Kenny replied: "Every single worker will benefit from tax cuts, every single worker, obviously there will be more benefit to those who earn more."
He said the country was "clearly moving in the right direction" and committed to continuing the recovery. "The Irish people together with the Fine Gael Party will see that the recovery, which is underway now, is going in the right direction."
"I hope that during the course of this election people will reflect on the issues, on the proposals and plans, or no plans in the case of some parties," he said.
Labour leader Joan Burton said that the party needs "to give it their all" during the election campaign in the face of bleak opinion poll predictions.
The out-going Tánaiste reminded colleagues that her party created 135,000 jobs and had "more to do", describing the opposition as painting a "dull and desperate picture" of Ireland.
Ms Burton also said lower- and middle- income workers needed to move from a minimum wage to a living wage at the start of her campaign in party headquarters.
She complemented her deputy leader Alan Kelly who she described as an "incredibly obedient employee" after he recently described himself as "his own boss".
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Coalition of being "arrogant and out of touch" and allowing "deep crises" in housing, healthcare and burglaries to develop under its watch. He insisted his party is campaigning to get into government, despite previously ruling out Fine Gael and Sinn Féin as Coalition partners and said he believed his 70 candidates "will be competitive in every single constituency". He said this includes Dublin, where FF currently has no TDs, and brushed off suggestions his leadership was at risk if he fails to get more than 35 TDs elected. He vowed to hold the "Government to account".
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said that securing 15 or more Dáil seats would represent a good day for his party.
Mr Adams said he hopes to be Taoiseach after the election - but refused to say how long he intends to remain on as Sinn Féin leader.
The Louth TD also denied that the improved economy will make it more difficult for Sinn Féin candidates to build on its 14 TDs.
"This is a choice whether you want a society that is fair and equal and has decent public services or whether you want more of the same under Fine Gael and Labour," he said.
But Mr Adams adopted a stony silence in relation to the upcoming sentencing of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who he has described as a "good republican".
Renua, Anti-Austerity Alliance, Green Party
Renua Ireland's leader Lucinda Creighton believes her party could get more than 10 seats, despite having just three out-going TDs.
She said it's likely the party will be in a "strong position" to influence the next government if it reaches its seats target. Ms Creighton said Renua has no intention of making up the numbers and insisted they will drive a "hard bargain".
The former Fine Gael TD admitted that running in a smaller party will have its difficulties. "Of course we will be appealing to the public for donations over the next few weeks," she said.
Meanwhile, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger said Taoiseach Enda Kenny has deliberately ensured a short campaign for the General Election to suit his own party. "We rely on going to doors meeting people and getting the message out," Ms Coppinger said at the launch of her campaign.
"They (bigger parties) can rely on money and media. This type of campaign suits them." Ms Coppinger was joined by her colleague Richard Boyd-Barrett who said it was "great" to get out to meet voters, adding: "You don't actually find out what's really happening in Leinster House."
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan pledged to get a "team" of TDs elected after his party's 2011 defeat saw his sitting TDs wiped out. Mr Ryan said he is "confident" running candidates in every constituency, following previous misery last time out at the polls. Social Democrats began their maiden General Election campaign by recommitting their pledge to keep USC, with Catherine Murphy TD hoping this will reduce the cost of living.
The co-leader of the party said the election came down to whether voters want US-style tax cuts where public services are run down or a "long-term view" for society.